For Seth MacFarlane's critics, Sunday night was supposed to be the moment we finally got to see the guy get his comeuppance. A "billion" viewers around the world, one of the most prestigious gigs in all of entertainment: As Oscar host, this was his chance to justify his swiftly, perhaps inexplicably, rising star. Or, if we were lucky, he'd embarrass himself, his petty, juvenile humor crashing and burning in front of the world, leaving nothing but some hair and two dimples and the wreckage of bad Jews-in-Hollywood jokes smoldering on the stage of the Dolby Theatre. We'd all have a good laugh about it later: Remember when Seth MacFarlane totally ate it at the Oscars? God, that was great.
When Will and I discussed back in October all the reasons we weren't happy with his selection as host, I ended by saying, partly as a joke but partly not, "Just think how funny this will all seem in five months when it turns out MacFarlane was the best Oscar host in 30 years." And when last night's show started, there was a part of me that wondered if maybe I was more right than I had realized. Maybe not the best host in 30 years, but definitely a step up from Billy Crystal or the truly dreadful co-hosting gig from James Franco and Anne Hathaway from a couple years ago. He wasn't good, sure, but at least he did the job in a way that breathed some life into a production that's been in repertory for years.